Gluten and allergies – is there a link?

gluten and allergies

Could you be allergic to the gluten in bread and other foods that contain the protein?

We take a closer look at the link between gluten and allergies.

Gluten allergy, intolerance or sensitivity?

The word “gluten” refers to a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye.  It has become a buzzword over the last few years. Many people claim to be intolerant, sensitive or even allergic to gluten.  Others believe that the protein worsens their seasonal allergies.

To determine whether gluten may be having a negative effect on your health, it’s important to understand the different types of reactions the protein could trigger. There are two potential scenarios:

1.Coeliac disease: If you have this condition, you have a serious auto-immune disorder.  In this instance, your body’s immune system attacks itself when you eat gluten.

2.Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity: If you have this type of sensitivity, you may experience coeliac disease-like symptoms (e.g. diarrhoea and abdominal cramping). Yet, when tested, it’s clear that your immune system doesn’t react to the protein.

Gluten allergen symptoms

True gluten allergy doesn’t exist. In other words, there isn’t a scenario in which your body produces a specific type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). This antibody, which is associated with allergies, recognises a specific allergen (for example, in food or pollen).  It then causes a chain reaction that leads to symptoms such as itchy skin, nasal congestion, or swelling of the throat.

If you do experience these symptoms when you eat foods that contain wheat (and therefore gluten), you may have a wheat allergy – but not a gluten allergy.

Some people are allergic to wheat, but that isn’t the same as a gluten allergy. Gluten allergy is a misleading term commonly confused with wheat allergy, or sometimes coeliac disease.

Although some foods do seem to make IgE-mediated allergies such as hay fever, hives and acute asthma worse, this remains a controversial subject. Researchers haven’t yet found a clear link between a diet that contains wheat and other allergies (e.g. hay fever during spring and summer).

Signs of a wheat allergy

If you or your child suffers from a wheat allergy, you’re likely to develop the following symptoms soon after eating a wheat-containing food:

• Swelling and/or itching of your throat or mouth
• An itchy rash, swelling of the skin or hives
• Cramps, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea
• Headache
• A congested nose
• Wheezing and breathing difficulties
• Anaphylactic shock, which could be fatal

Good to know

If you believe you may have a wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. Speak to your doctor or allergist about getting the correct tests done.


By Carine Visagie




The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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